The Kings and Sharks concluded their five game season series last night, and with the previous games mostly favoring the visitor, many were hopeful for a win. Despite the final score, the Kings were in it most of the game thanks to some phenomenal work from Quick. It was a somewhat similar game to the Wild and Jets games where the Kings pile up chances, but just can't convert.
The Kings looked great as soon as the puck dropped in San Jose last night. They were entering the zone with control and space, and they were easily breaking up San Jose's entry chances. It took San Jose nearly five minutes to register an attempt on net. Eight minutes into the period, Justin Braun flubbed a rather routine puck off the glass zone clear to give LA their first power play. The Kings' puck movement looked sharp, and just over a minute into the man advantage, Vincent Lecavalier found himself with enough room to shoot coming in from the half wall. A puck that may have slightly been deflected hit the top corner of the net, and the Kings had the game's first goal.
Braun made up for his mistake mere minutes later when the Kings couldn't get a handle on the puck in the high slot. If anything, this was an example of the Kings' troubles on the night. Multiple times they had control of the puck only to be pressured by a forecheck into a bad decision or downright surprised by the pressure. It was a strange counterpoint to the extremely crisp passes they strung together for breakouts- sometimes even on the same shift.
The second period gave each team another goal, but this time, the order was reversed. For the Sharks, a Brent Burns' shot from the blue line took a detour when it deflected off of Joe Pavelski. The Kings' goal was Lecavalier's second. Vinny stormed on the ice as part of a change thanks to a good shift by the Carter line. Milan Lucic spotted Vinny and gave him a nifty pass that setup the veteran centerman with enough time to pick his shot and beat Martin Jones five-hole. The goal is Vinny's tenth in 36 games for the Kings, and with it came a pledge to forever haunt Kevin Kurz's dreams.
The highlight of the second period wouldn't come courtesy of a skater, however. In the dying seconds of the period, Logan Couture found himself with a golden chance after a 2-on-1 developed and Drew Doughty was unable to deny the pass. Couture fired the shot on net and Quick plunged to the other side of the net, stick outstretched. The puck hit the stick and deflected upward to bounce off the crossbar. The save was so miraculous that Logan Couture even started to celebrate before he realized what happened. I imagine whenever Jonathan Quick gets sad in the future, he will just watch that sequence on replay over and over again.
*fanning self with both hands* pic.twitter.com/G3c9M6awTV— LA Kings (@LAKings) March 29, 2016
This is where the good news stopped for the Kings. The Sharks' lethal power play setup perfectly against the Kings early in the third, giving Joe Thornton an easy tap-in after a series of rebounds and bounces to Quick's weak side. A defensive miscue by Jake Muzzin allowed Melker Karlsson to tuck a puck past Quick later in the period. Finally, the Kings failed to generate substantial pressure with their net open, and Braun had the final dagger for the Kings.
There were certainly some positives for the game. The production from Vinny is nice to see, and Nic Dowd along with Andy Andreoff and Kyle Clifford may well have been the Kings' second best line. The finish of Clifford was the only thing keeping Dowd from getting his first NHL point. There were also some surprising negatives. Jake Muzzin finished the night a -3, and he often found himself caught in between decisions on how to play the puck. Anze Kopitar had a horrid night as well. He was constantly being knocked down along the boards, had trouble generating any chances, and he looked downright foolish when he attempted to sweep the puck through the top of the zone only to have Logan Couture engineer his own breakaway with a poke check.
A small part of the Sharks' advantages were also due to the last change. Quite a few times they managed to roll out their top lines against Dowd and/or the Kings' bottom pair. The loss was the Kings' fourth in the last give games, and the Ducks can now pass them in the standings with their game in-hand. Depth scoring again looks to be a challenge for the Kings, so the looming return of Kris Versteeg is hopefully the shot in the arm they seem to desperately need now.